Once people learn about common side effects of medications to treat elevated cholesterol or high blood pressure, they are often curious about non-drug approaches to heart health. The doctor may recommend exercise (de Sousa et al, Hypertension Research, online Aug. 3, 2017). Vigorous physical activity lowers blood pressure. Patients may also attempt to follow the American Heart Association’s advice to avoid salt and saturated fat. How many people consider quitting sugar?

Would You Benefit from Quitting Sugar?

Q. I have taken blood pressure meds for decades. A month before my most recent blood work, I decided to see what would happen if I stopped eating sugar or other simple carbs. To my astonishment, my cholesterol plummeted from the usual 247 to 193.

I decided to continue the no-sugar diet to see what would happen. Again, to my utter disbelief, within the next six weeks I had to discontinue my losartan due to low blood pressure.

I have not taken any more blood pressure medication for over a month because of this astounding turn of events. My cardiologist didn’t know what to say when I asked why the medical profession isn’t more aggressive about sugar and its awful consequences. Instead, they blame fats and sodium.

In my experience, sugar is the enemy of my cardiovascular health. Had it not been for my daughter reading The Case Against Sugar, I’d still be watching my fat and sodium intake with very little success. Your thoughts?

The Controversy Over Saturated Fat:

A. Our thoughts turn to a recent controversial editorial in the British Journal of Sports Medicine (Aug. 2017): “Saturated fat does not clog the arteries.” The authors, all cardiologists, suggest that heart disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity can all be traced to chronic high blood sugar and elevated insulin levels.

Many people develop insulin resistance when they eat foods full of refined carbs and sugar. The editorialists encourage regular physical activity, a low-sugar Mediterranean-style diet and stress reduction to improve quality of life and reduce the risk of heart disease.

We don’t know whether others can their lower blood pressure by following your approach. A recent review of trials of popular diets found that the Atkins diet, which cuts sugar and simple carbs, resulted in the most weight loss (Anton, et al, Nutrients, July 31, 2017).

We can’t think of any drawbacks to quitting sugar, although this is controversial (Stanhope, Critical Reviews in Clinical Laboratory Sciences, Jan. 2016). Table sugar (sucrose) is half glucose and half fructose. Recent research indicates that people who ingest large quantities of fructose have higher blood lipids and insulin resistance (Bidwell, Nutrients, May 28, 2017). A sedentary lifestyle seems to make these problems even worse.

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  1. bookmanjb
    Durham, NC

    I’ve been taking Candesartan Plus (hydrochlorothiazide ) for years. My normal dose is 32mgs C./12.5mgs H. I am not overweight but 3 or 4 times a year, I go on a low-carb diet for 4 weeks at a time to shed 10-12 pounds. Usually my blood pressure immediately lowers and I reduce to regular Candesartan 16mgs with no hydrochlorothiazide.

    I just finished a four week low-carb regimen and while I’m back to eating bread & pasta & fruit, I decided to continue to abjure refined sugar just to see how it affected me. Not only have I not had to go back to Candesartan Plus but I’ve had to reduce it even further to 8mgs and I’m contemplating stopping altogether (after talking to my doc, of course).

    The only change has been that I’ve cut out refined sugar. I still intend to eat ice cream on really hot days but other than that, I don’t miss candy, cookies and cake at all.

  2. sheila
    cheshire, ct

    The paleo diet meat poultry eggs and veggies (limited fruits) fish and the good fats, especially avocados, olive oil is the most comprehensive. I have goats milk and cheese somewhat.

    Refined sugar and flours are not helping you. Forget artificial sweeteners. High protein breakfast!

  3. Lee

    After over 10 years of being on blood pressure medicine (usually two different ones at a time) just to ‘maintain’ my normal/high readings – I decided to do my own research. For the past 4 months I’ve stopped eating all refined sugars (which also includes any and all processed foods…read the labels and you’ll know why; there is added sugar in everything). My numbers are crazy good now. I’ve weaned completely off of one of the meds and am now doing the same with the other…

    My blood pressure problems were ‘hereditary’ until I gave up sugar.

  4. Alan

    In the past 2 – 3 months, I have almost eliminated carbs (sugars, starches) from my diet. I mostly eat meat, fish, poultry, eggs, WHOLE CREAM dairy, and lotsa veggies: KETO diet, mostly.

    Haven’t actually gotten any indication on “Keto-sticks,” but as of this morning I’ve lost 16 pounds. I think i’lll just carry on this way.

  5. Marylou
    Sanford NC

    If you are searching for answers, check out this book: The China Study 2016 Revised and expanded Edition – The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Every Conducted, by T Colin Campbell PhD and Thomas M Campbell II MD; This book and other materials by these researchers have given me the tools to make dietary changes that are showing results.

    The Whole Food Plant Based (WFPB) is about long-term health and weight loss. The WFPB nutritional plan is safe for the rest of your life! You can also check this out on you tube. Don’t tell yourself you could not do without meat and dairy, refined sugar, etc. Read the results of many research studies that show we can positively impact our health, and feel satisfied, with a smile. I’ve lost 19 lbs in 2 months, blood glucose level from 106 down to 87, other numbers improving! happy happy happy!

  6. Renee

    Read the article “Pandora’s Lab” in the June 2017 issue of National Geographic. The real killer is trans fats. They not only increase fat in the heart and blood vessels they decrease your levels of good HDL cholesterol and increase the bad LDL cholesterol. If a product label shows no trans fat on the label look for the words partially hydrogenated fat. That is trans fat. And if there is less than 0.5 gram of trans fat in a product the FDA allows manufacturers to claim Zero grams of trans fat in the product. So in the ingredient label look for “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil”. That is trans fat. Examples of such products are cream filled sponge cakes, microwave popcorn, some brands of margarines and coffee creamers. Avoid trans fats as if your life depended on it. Because it does.

  7. AnneS

    On the quitting sugar suggestion to lower blood pressure, could it be that the foods with the simple carbs and sugars were also loaded with fat and salt. The cupcake pictured, for instance, probably has a lot of fat in it. The chocolate chip cookie I get from Panera Bread is actually salty tasting sometimes, and I’m sure it has fat in it. However, I have tried everything else, maybe I should try that too.

  8. Bonnie

    Have a food-related question about the increasing number of people who are overweight in this country. We know that the beef, pork, and poultry that we eat have been injected with artificial growth hormone. The purpose is to make the animals bigger in a shorter period of time to get them to market. When we eat the meat, we also ingest the growth hormone. Does that contribute to rapid weight gain in humans? When we see those who practice vegetarianism, there do not seem to be any overweight people. Best example is Bill Clinton, who ate lots of meat & was overweight, & after heart surgery, turned to vegetarianism, and for years, has not been overweight. After public outcry, the meat industry is slowly stopping antibiotic injection in animals. Can’t we demand the same thing regarding growth hormones?

  9. Marg

    I completely agree that eliminating refined sugar as much as possible makes me feel better and no doubt positively affects my health. However, I have a real struggle avoiding the temptation of baked goods just like that nice cupcake pictured above. It is the colour that attracts me to confections. Sometimes I think if I could condition myself to equate sugar with something repulsive, then it would help that struggle. It is the custom in our workplace to bring in sugary treats on a Friday, and it is torture to say no!

  10. Zeke

    I want to know if only eating fruits including melons and pineapples for breakfast increases issues trending towards diabetes?

    • Mary

      Zeke, the best way to determine which fruits/melons are best is to look on the Internet for a list of low-glycemic index foods. You can find a list for veggies and a list for fruits. The lower the number on the index, the better the food is for you. My husband had to lose as weight as possible to prepare for prostate surgery. For 2 months I fed him a high protein, low carb diet with an emphasis on low-glycemic index veggies and fruits. He lost 35 pounds. His A1-C blood test numbers also decreased by half. The doctor said it was the diet that did all this. My husband could have limited carbs (potatoes, rice,bread) of no more than 45 grams a day. We found that melons, pineapple, and grapes had higher amounts of natural sugar than berries. Berries are the best food to get something sweet without consuming too much sugar.

  11. Judy
    Eugene, Oregon

    I also have cut sugar from my diet and I feel so much better plus my once high blood pressure is now well within limits. There are many delicious fruits one can eat and still get the satisfaction of
    something sweet….plus they are healthy for you.

  12. Mick

    I totally agree with reducing sugar or completely eliminating it. I am so hooked on sugar and just hate the sugar substitutes. My Blood sugar, high cholesterol, somewhat elevated blood pressure and a sedentary lifestyle could absolutely be fixed if I could just eliminate my sugar intake. Just can’t figure out how. They talk about smoking addiction but sugar is just as bad.

  13. Gin
    ABQ, NM

    Dr Steven Gundry is a reknown heart surgeon has had a total turn around concerning causes of heart disease. He also recognizes the effect of sugar on the heart. In 2008 he wrote a book, Dr Gundry’s Diet Evolution in that book he tells us how bark sugar & carbs are for us.

  14. Diane M

    I agree. My husband went on Atkins to lower his cholesterol and it worked. And………..we both lost 9 lbs. I only gave up sweets and gave up the white carbs for dinner to support him. I had never lost 9 lbs. in my life.

  15. Janice

    Dietary changes affected my cholesterol. It was 189 and after just two months of eating low fat, plant based; one large green salad daily, cholesterol was 159. Triglycerides dropped also but not to the normal range. I did eat about 10% meat, dairy and sugar. My adult daughter’s total cholesterol, LDL and Triglycerides went from high to normal by eliminating dairy increasing veggies and exercising more. In my family we have negatively impacted our health simply with poor food choices. I agree doctors should stress the relationship between food and chronic illness. But we as patients should embrace this. Took me a long time to make the connection but it was definitely not at the urging of my doctor.

  16. Paula O

    It’s not just the sugar. Sugar is often eaten in the form of baked goods containing highly-refined carbs and unhealthy fats. By reducing the amount of added sugar in a diet, a person is also reducing the amount of other unhealthy foods in their diet. But it is important to replace the unhealthy omitted foods with foods that actually promote health.

  17. Tom

    It would seem that this would be an easy study to conduct using a few thousand samples. Sugar is found in so many foods that it is easy to get a severe overload. Exactly why do we need any sugar? Perhaps it has addictive qualities that we are not told about.

  18. Arlene
    Buffalo, n.y. O

    I do believe sugar does contribute to many illness. I have try to stay away from the sweets, I feel my joints don’t hurt as much. What to you think, hada trouble with the knees

  19. Ann

    Like it or not, a little over one hundred years ago doctors didn’t know enough to wash their hands between patients and today we think these same doctors have all the answers to every problem..

  20. Beverly

    I think even diet soft drinks raise blood pressure. I am wondering if this contributor eliminated fruit from her diet or just table sugar or foods with added sugars and desserts. I am going to try eliminating added sugar and sweet foods, and if that doesn’t seem to be helping, I will also try eliminating fresh fruit.

  21. Luke

    Don’t trust “eating fat is safe” because it isn’t. Neither is eating too many carbs. Do moderation. And get rid of the chicken fat (weight).

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